Strength Training: No Pain No Gain… Right?

Clay Malott | | BrainsBrains
Visualizing exercises allows you to get similar muscle gains to physical exercises from the comfort of your couch. Photo credit: HITuni

In nearly any sport, skiing included, strength is very important. Strength means endurance, higher overall performance. There is no downside to being stronger when it comes to performance in sports.

However, getting stronger takes work. Dedicated workouts targeting specific muscle groups, cardiovascular endurance, etc., all take time and effort, which some people may not have. Unfortunately, there is no known alternative. Or is there?

A 2007 study from Erin M. Shackell and Lionel G. Standing at Bishop’s University revealed there might be an alternative. The study divided participants into three groups: a control that did not do anything, a group that physically did hip strengthening exercises, and a group that mentally visualized doing these same exercises.

The physical and mental groups performed these exercises 5 times per week for 15-minute sessions. At the end of the week, Shackell and Standing measured the strength increases of all three groups. Unsurprisingly, the control group that did not do any exercising saw no gains in strength. The physical group saw an average 28% increase in strength. Shockingly, the group that visualized doing the exercises saw a 24% gain in strength!

Visualization is a powerful strength-building tool. Photo credit: NPR

By literally imagining doing exercises, the study found that participants saw a strength increase equivalent to 85% of the group that actually physically performed the same exercises! While mentally envisioning doing exercises is not a perfect substitute for physical strength training, this study, among others, has validated visualization as a real way to gain muscle… without the pain.

How exactly does it work? Vivid visualization, or “phantasia,” of exercises essentially tricks your muscles into thinking they are being worked. By simply imagining that you are performing certain exercises, you can gain strength from the comfort of your couch!

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One thought on “Strength Training: No Pain No Gain… Right?

  1. This is super helpful! As a skier, it’s often hard to maintain my strength during the off season. This will be great to be able to keep strong year round! Another great article, Clay.

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